Sankara Narayanan Temple, Sankarankovil – The Temple
The Temple is situated on 4.5 acre site in the heart of the town. It is one of the Pancha Bootha (five elements) Sthalas in the South Pandya country. With an imposing Rajagopuram, rising to a height of 125 feet with nine tiers, the temple essentially consists of three parts - the shrines of Siva, Gomathi Amman and Sankaranarayanar. This temple is surrounded by high perimeter walls and the gopuram has many beautiful stucco images. There are large courtyards surrounding the three sanctums of this temple.
The temple tower is covered from top to bottom with a vast number of heavily stuccoes images of the Hindu pantheon. Lord Sankaranarayana is the main deity in the temple. Vinayaka is Anugnai Vinayaka. The temple has a 9 tier Rajagopuram. It is known from the stone inscriptions that the construction of this temple was commenced at 1022 A.D. by Pandya king Ukkira Pandya.
The ant-hill sand is offered as Prasad which the sick consume along with water for cure. Adhikara Nandhi is at the entrance with his consort Suyajadevi and the Nandhi before the sanctum is under a Rudraksha Pandal-tent. The temple was constructed in the Dravidian Style and follows Kamiga Agamam.
This place is also called as Poo Kailayam, Punnai Vanam, Seeraasapuram, Seeraasai, Vaaraasaipuram and Koozhai Nagar. One can also find beautiful paintings and stone carvings adorning the temple walls and ceiling. The pillars in the Mandapams depict life size sculptures - Rathi, Manmada, Kuravan, Manakkreevan and others. There are beautiful fresco paintings adorning the sanctum walls and mandapa ceiling. The stone idol of Nataraja is unique.
The Temple is having 125 feet Raja Gopuram. This gopuram contains nine storeys. Its top part length is 56 feet, width is 15 feet. Kumba kalasams on the top is 7 feet 4 inch.
Yoga Narasimha in Koshtam:
As a tradition, Lord Lingodhbava or Lord Vishnu grace on the ghoshta wall around the sanctum. In this temple, this slot is occupied by Lord Yoga Narasimha. Those suffering from tooth ache pray here with abishek for relief from pain. Special pujas are offered here on Purattasi Saturdays in September-October.
Sarpa Vinayaka Shrine:
There is a shrine for Lord Sarpa Vinayaka – Vinayaka with a Serpent in hand. Those facing adverse effects serpent planet Ragu, worship here at Rahu Kalam time (4.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.) on Sundays. To protect children from poisonous bite, devotees offer Arugampul (a variety of grass) garlands with Milk porridge (Payasam) as Nivedhana to Lord Sarpa Vinayaka.
Gomathi Amman Shrine:
Go means cow and Mathi Moon in Sanskrit. Maidens from the celestial world came along with Ambica in the form of cows to help her penance. With a face as radiant as the Moon and being owner of cows, Ambica is called Gomathi. She is also praised as Aavudayambikai being the Tamil version of Gomathi. Mother is dressed with flowers on Mondays and golden skirt on Fridays. Those facing problems in wedding efforts and concern about children’s welfare pray to Mother Gomathi lighting lamps made of rice flour mixed with ghee.
Sri Chakra, personifying the glory and power of Shakti is installed either under the peeta bearing Ambica or in front of the peeta. Here, Sri Chakra is installed in the Mandapam before Ambica. This is called Agna Chakra. Those with depression and confusion sit on this Chakra and pray to Ambica. They believe they would be freed from confusions.
Vanmeeka Nathar Shrine:
There is a shrine for Lord Vanmeeka Nathar in the Shiva prakara. Lord Shiva in this shrine appears in an ant-hill form, his true form. It is designed as if he is sitting on a serpent with its head above him as an umbrella. Vanmeekam means ant-hill. As Lord Shiva is in the Vanmeekam, He is praised as Vanmeekanadhar. Those afflicted with adverse snake planet aspects, pray in the shrine spraying turmeric powder. There are five Naga idols before this shrine. Devotees perform abishek to these idols with milk.
Lord Sankaranarayana shrine is in between the shrines of Lord Shiva and Mother Gomathi. The right side of the deity belonging to Lord Shiva has Agni the fire, Ganga, crescent moon and the turf, ear ring, Rudraksha on the chest, Mazhu the weapon of Lord Shiva and tiger skin clothing in waist. Sangan is holding the umbrella in the Tiruvasi – the frame around the Lord.
On the left, belonging to Lord Vishnu, appears with his gem studded crown, a hanging ear ring-Kundalam-Tulsi bead and Lakshmi mala in chest, a conch and the silk-peethambara around the waist. Paduman is holding the umbrella in this side. Tulsi theertha is offered as Prasad during morning pujas. Vibhuti the sacred ash is offered during other pujas.
Garlands of Tulsi and flowers are offered during the pujas. Vilwa for Shiva and Tulsi for Vishnu are used in pujas. Lord Shiva is fond of Abishek-bathing while Lord Vishnu is fond of attractive dressing. Sankaranarayana always appears in his best Alankara-dressing. Abishek in the shrine is offered to Lord Chandramouleeswara the Spatika Linga-crystal Linga.
Pujas are offered to him on Shivarathri and new moon days. He comes of the shrine to grant darshan to Ambica on Aadi Thapasu festival day. During March and September months, the rays of Sun fall on Sankaralingam for three days from 21st of the respective months.
There is a Nagasunai (holy tank) inside the temple premises, which was said to have been dug by serpent kings named Paduman and Sangan. People, who take a bath in this holy tank, adore ant-hill earth on their body and offer holy prayers to the presiding deities of this temple have a permanent relief from all sorts of dreadful diseases.
Sthala Vriksham for the Temple is Punnai (Calophyllum inophyllum) Tree. Once upon a time this area covered by these trees. In this temple this tree is in Western Prakaram.
There is a snake pit inside the temple and it is believed that applying the sand/mud from the snake pit on one’s body can cure various diseases. Those who come visit this temple also offer miniatures of snake, scorpion and other reptiles to get rid of curses. These miniatures are sold outside and inside the temple premises. The Puthu sand has healing properties. Maa Vilakku is an important offering in this temple.